It took 23 years, but Central Catholic can once again claim the title of City League football champions.
The Fighting Irish (9-1, 7-0 CL) turned a 5-0 advantage in turnovers into a 27-21 victory over St. John s Jesuit last night before a crowd of over 4,000 at the Glass Bowl, securing their first crown since 1982 and ninth overall.
We ve been waiting a long time for this, said sixth-year Central coach Greg Dempsey, a 1990 graduate and former Irish player. It s been a personal goal of mine, and what these kids did tonight was just phenomenal.
Central grabbed the game s momentum midway in the first half, turning three Titan giveaways into three second-quarter touchdowns.
A fourth St. John s turnover late in the half, with the Titans (8-2, 5-2) driving toward a score, enabled the Irish to take a 21-7 lead to the break.
Turnovers are usually the name of the game when two good teams face off, Dempsey said. And, when you capitalize on them, it s even bigger. Our kids did a great job of doing that.
Finally, with St. John s in position to right all of its wrongs in the closing minutes, an interception [of Titan QB Sean Patterson] by Irish defensive back/quarterback Kevin Jansen all but killed the Titans comeback bid.
That was a great feeling, Jansen said. I hadn t had an interception all year. I really wanted to get one so that everybody would quit making fun of me.
He rolled right and came back to the left. His receiver broke on it, and I was just lucky enough to be able to jump in front.
St. John s final possession ended with 0:57 left on Patterson s incompletion on fourth-and-30 from his 3.
Jansen completed 8 of 15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, complementing tailback Chris Willis, who carried 34 times for 103 yards and a TD.
We really capitalized on those turnovers, Willis said. They coughed the ball up, and we punched numbers up.
Central thus holds its No. 2 spot in the Division II, Region 6 computer rankings and the 11th-ranked Irish will host a first-round playoff game in Toledo on Friday.
St. John s, ranked 10th in the Division I state poll, will have to wait and see if it will play at home or travel for a Region 2 playoff game.
The Titans scored on their second possession, taking advantage of a fumble by Willis to grab a 7-0 lead.
Patterson (15 of 31, 165 yards) hit running back DeAndre Ware (26 carries, 154 yards) over the middle on a 20-yard catch-and-run TD with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
After Phil Reynolds recovered a Ware fumble at the Central 49, the Irish went 51 yards on nine plays. The last was a 10-yard TD strike from Jansen to tight end Chris Dominiak on the first play of the second quarter.
Just 10 seconds later, Central had another TD and a 14-7 lead. Brodie Wagener s kickoff was fumbled by Titan return man Ross Hartwig, and standout Irish linebacker Ryan Brown dived on the loose ball at the St. John s 10. On the next play, Brown ran a reverse to the left for a 10-yard score.
The momentum really shifted there when they scored two so quick, Titan coach Doug Pearson said. But, that s kids. That s high school football.
I saw [Hartwig] fumbling around with the ball and I just dove right on it and got the ball, Brown said.
That [TD run] felt great. That was the first time I touched the ball on offense all year. We put that play in [Thursday].
Patterson s fumble on an attempted handoff to Ware also led to an Irish TD. This time Central covered 44 yards, with Willis bolting 11 yards for the TD and a 21-7 lead 1:37 before halftime.
St. John s pulled closer on Patterson s 41-yard TD bomb to Jake Bombrys with 49 seconds left in the third quarter, but Central answered with a pivotal play early in the fourth.
On fourth-and-five, Jansen hit wideout Dane Sanzenbacher on a 25-yard TD pass down the left sideline with 9:53 remaining.
St. John s added an eight-yard TD pass from Patterson to Jalil Carter with 5:22 left in the game.
Contact Steve Junga at:email@example.com 419-724-6461.
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